Local Wire

Bonnie "Prince" Billy

There are memorable collaborations throughout Will "Bonnie 'Prince' Billy" Oldham's musically promiscuous career, including recent ones with Tortoise, Matt Sweeney, and Jason Molina. The latest to bear fruit is with Drag City labelmate Dawn McCarthy of Faun Fables, whose contributions to The Letting Go are understated by such adjectives as "integral" or "essential." McCarthy's voice is capable of Chan Marshall's whisper or Sandy Denny's soaring alto, and it shadows Oldham's smoke-cured croak like an ethereal chaser on all but a single cut. Many tracks sound like buried English folk songs imbued with new life by the artistry of Icelandic producer Valgeir Sigurdsson (Björk, Sigur Rós), who plays Joe Boyd to Oldham's Nick Drake. The Letting Go fleshes out the sparse acoustics of 2003's Master & Everyone with a string section, brush-stroke percussion from the Dirty Three's Jim White, tasteful guitar lines from Chicago wunderkind Emmett Kelly, and the occasional gauzy electronic or keyboard effect. The fuller sound doesn't detract from Oldham's trademark intimacy and candor, which remains well-served by images and metaphors so immediate, you can practically see the lovers' sweat and smell their breath.
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John Schacht